Articles Posted in Credit Suisse

Credit Suisse Unit and Ex-Investment Adviser Settle SEC Charges, Pay $8M Fine
Credit Suisse AG (CS) unit Credit Suisse Securities and Ex-investment adviser Sanford Michael Katz have settled SEC charges accusing them of improperly investing the funds of clients in “Class A” mutual fund shares instead of “institutional” shares that were less costly. According to the regulator, the firm and Katz did not adequately disclose the conflict of interest presented by choosing the Class A investment, which allowed them to profit more at investors’ expense. They are accused of breaching their fiduciary duties.

The SEC’s orders state that Credit Suisse made about $3.2M in 12b-1 fees that could have been avoided. According to the Commission, about $2.5M of those fees came from Katz’s clients. The regulator said that the firm did not put into place policies and procedures to prevent fiduciary breaches.

Both Credit Suisse and Katz settled the SEC charges without denying or admitting to the regulator’s findings. Together, they have to pay over $3.2M of disgorgement, over $577K of prejudgment interest, and an over $4.1M penalty. A fair fund has been set up to compensate clients.

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Ex-Investors Capital Rep. Charged in $2.5M Ponzi Scam

Patricia S. Miller, a former Investors Capital Corp. representative, has been indicted on charges that she ran a $2.5 million investment fraud. She is accused of promising clients high yields for placing funds in “investment clubs.” Miller allegedly took this money and either gambled it away or used it to pay for her own spending.

According to prosecutors in Massachusetts, alleged fraud took place from 2002 through May 2014. Investors Capital fired Miller last month. Her BrokerCheck Report notes that the independent broker-dealer let her go because she allegedly misappropriated funds, borrowed client money, generated false documents, and engaged in “fraudulent investment activity.” Miller is charged with five counts of wire fraud.

Credit Suisse (CS) is agreeing to pay $196 million and has admitted to wrongdoing as part of its settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission over allegations that it violated federal securities laws when it gave cross-border investment advisory and brokerage services to US clients even though it was not registered with the regulator. According to the SEC’s order to institute resolved administrative proceedings, the financial firm gave cross-border securities services to thousands of clients in this country even though it hadn’t met federal securities laws’ registration provisions. In the process, Credit Suisse made about $82 million in fees even though its relationship managers that were involved had not registered with the Commission nor did they have affiliation to any registered entities.

The firm began providing cross-border brokerage and advisory services for customers in the US in 2002, setting up as much as 8,500 accounts that held about $5.6 billion in securities assets. Relationship managers visited the US about 107 times and serviced hundreds of customers when they were here. They would offer investment advice and effect securities transactions. When they were abroad, the managers worked with US clients via phone calls and e-mails. Also, some of the customers involved were Americans who had Swiss bank accounts at the firm. Criminal authorities continue to look into whether there were tax violations and if the clients were able to avoid paying taxes as a result.

Even though the firm knew about the registration requirements and made efforts to prevent violations, their initiatives didn’t work that well due to improper monitoring and the inadequate implementation of internal controls. The SEC says that it wasn’t until the civil and criminal probe into similar conduct by UBS (UBS) in 2008 that Credit Suisse started taking action to stop providing these cross border advisory services to UC clients. These types of activities were completely terminated but not until the middle of last year. During that time, the financial firm kept collecting investment adviser fees on some broker accounts.

The New Jersey Attorney General John Hoffman is suing a Credit Suisse Group AG (CS) for securities fraud. The state’s regulator contends that the bank misrepresented the risks on over $10B in home loan-backed securities.

According to the mortgage-backed securities lawsuit, Credit Suisse is accused of failing to disclose that loan originators it employed had records of delinquencies and defaults and that some had even been suspended from working with the bank. The state’s attorney general claims that even though Credit Suisse’s traders were unwilling to hold the securities on the books of the bank, the latter was selling them to customers. Also, alleges the complaint, the despite receiving tens of millions of dollars in reimbursement from loan originators for the faulty loans, Credit Suisse did not give the money to the trusts that owned the loans.

A representative for Credit Suisse says the mortgage securities case is meritless. The bank is facing a similar lawsuit filed against it by New York’s attorney general.

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York has rejected Credit Suisse Group’s (CS) motion to dismiss Elbit Systems Ltd. v. Credit Suisse Group, the auction-rate securities lawsuit filed by an investor claiming that alleged misconduct took place at a Credit Suisse Group brokerage firm subsidiary Credit Suisse Securities (USA) LLC. The court said that the investor did an adequate job of alleging that the subsidiary acted with actual power of authority as Credit Suisse Group’s agent.

The plaintiff, Elbit Systems Ltd., contends that it invested in ARS because it was told that these were liquid, safe, and backed by the US government-backed. However, the Israeli electronics company claims that even as the market started failing in 2007, cash managers started to replace the government-backed ARS with more risky ARS backed by credit-linked note securities and collateralized debt obligations, and its Corporate Cash Management account began to fail, it was never informed that these problems were happening. Instead, its holdings in these risky investments were allegedly increased.

As of the complaints filing, Elbit’s securities have not been sold while its ARS investments had allegedly lost about $16 million. Also, a Credit Suisse Securities executive is accused of telling the plaintiff that brokers Eric Butler and Julian Tzolov were too busy to handle its account when actually, the two of them were no longer at the firm because they had been accused of securities fraud.

Credit Suisse & J.P. Morgan to Pay $400M Over RMBS Misstatements

In SEC v. J.P. Morgan, the financial firm is accused of allegedly misstating information related to approximately 620 subprime mortgage loans’ delinquency status. The loans gave collateral for a $1.8M residential mortgage-backed securities offering that J.P. Morgan (JPM) underwrote six years ago and from which it was paid over $2.7 million in fees while investors lost at least $37 million. Now, the firm has agreed to pay nearly $297M to settle the allegations (without denying or admitting to them). The Commission is also accusing J.P. Morgan-owned Bear Stearns Cos. LLC of failing to disclose from 2005 to 2007 that it kept financial settlements from mortgage loan originators on problem loans that it sold into RMBS trusts.

Also settling RMBS Misstatement allegations with the regulator is Credit Suisse Securities (USA) LLC. In an administrative order, the SEC claims that between 2005 and 2010 the financial firm did not accurately disclose that it would keep cash from claims it settled against mortgage loan originators for issues involving loans that it had sold into RMBS trusts. Credit Suisse also allegedly misled investors about when it intended to buy back loans from trusts if those that borrowed did not make the initial payment. The firm has agreed to settle for $120M and is also not denying or admitting to the allegedly negligent conduct.

Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC), UBS AG (UBSN), Morgan Stanley (MS), and Citigroup Inc. (C) have consented to pay a combined $9.1 million to settle Financial Industry Regulatory Authority claims that they did not adequately supervise the sale of leveraged and inverse exchange-traded funds in 2008 and 2009. $7.3 million of this is fines. The remaining $1.8 million will go to affected customers. The SRO says that the four financial firms had no reasonable grounds for recommending these securities to the investors, yet they each sold billions of dollars of ETFs to clients. Some of these investors ended up holding them for extended periods while the markets were exhibiting volatility.

It was in June 2009 that FINRA cautioned brokers that long-term investors and leveraged and inverse ETFs were not a good match. While UBS suspended its sale of these ETFs after the SRO issued its warning, it eventually resumed selling them but doesn’t recommend them to clients anymore. Morgan Stanley also had announced that it would place restrictions on ETF sales. Meantime, Wells Fargo continues to sell leveraged and inverse ETF. However, a spokesperson for the financial firm says that it has implemented enhanced procedures and policies to ensure that it meets its regulatory responsibilities. Citigroup also has enhanced its policies, procedures, and training related to the sale of these ETFs. (FINRA began looking into how leveraged and inverse ETFs are being marketed to clients in March after one ETN, VelocityShares Daily 2x VIX Short-Term (TVIX), which is managed by Credit Suisse (CS), lost half its worth in two days.)

The Securities and Exchange Commission describes ETFs as (usually) registered investment companies with shares that represent an interest in a portfolio with securities that track an underlying index or benchmark. While leveraged ETFs look to deliver multiples of the performance of the benchmark or index they are tracking, inverse ETFs seek to do the opposite. Both types of ETFs seek to do this with the help of different investment strategies involving future contracts, swaps, and other derivative instruments. The majority of leveraged and inverse ETFs “reset” daily. How they perform over extend time periods can differ from how well their benchmark or underlying index does during the same duration. Per Bloomberg, leveraged and inverse ETFs hold $29.3 billion in the US.

“These highly leveraged investments were – and still are – being bought into the accounts of unsophisticated investors at these and other firms,” said Leveraged and Inverse ETF Attorney William Shepherd. “Although most firms do not allow margin investing in retirement accounts, many did not screen accounts to flag these leveraged investments which can operate on the same principle as margin accounts.”

For investors, it is important that they understand the risks involved in leveraged and inverse ETFs. Depending on what investment strategies the ETF employs, the risks may vary. Long-term investors should be especially careful about their decision to invest in leveraged and inverse ETFs.

Finra Sanctions Citi, Morgan Stanley, UBS, Wells Fargo $9.1M For Leveraged ETFs, The Wall Street Journal, May 1, 2012
Leveraged and Inverse ETFs: Specialized Products with Extra Risks for Buy-and-Hold Investors, SEC
FINRA investigating exchange-traded notes: spokesperson, Reuters, March 29, 2012

More Blog Posts:
SEC to Investigate Seesawing Credit Suisse TVIX Note, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, March 30, 2012

Principals of Global Arena Capital Corp. and Berthel, Fisher & Company Financial Services, Inc. Settle FINRA Securities Allegations, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, April 6, 2012

Goldman Sachs to Pay $22M For Alleged Lack of Proper Internal Controls That Allowed Analysts to Attend Trading Huddles and Tip Favored Clients, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, April 12, 2012 Continue reading

The US Securities and Exchange Commission is reviewing the VelocityShares 2x Daily VIX Short Term Exchange Traded Note (TVIX) that collapsed last week, right after it climbing nearly 90% beyond its asset value. The drop came not long after Credit Suisse stopped issuing shares last month. Now, the Switzerland-based investment bank says it will start creating more shares.

Also known as TVIX, the VelocityShares 2x Daily VIX Short Term Exchange Traded Note is an exchanged-traded note that seeks to provide two times the daily return of the VIX volatility index. With the note’s value hitting nearly $700 million up from where it was at approximately $163 million in 2011 and now crashing down, The TVIX has taken investors for quite the ride.

Investor advocates are saying that more should be done to protect retail investors. There is growing concern that with the rising popularity of ETNs, investors and financial advisers are getting into these products without fully understanding them or the risks involved. Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has said that it too will look into the “events and trading activity” that led to the collapse of the TVIX note.

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas has ruled that Credit Suisse Securities shouldn’t have to pay Luby’s Restaurants another $186,000 as part of its arbitration to the investor. The case is Luby’s Restaurants LP v. Credit Suisse Securities (USA) LLC. Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas Founder and Texas Securities Fraud Attorney William Shepherd had this to say about the ruling: “Attorneys for each side have the opportunity to submit language to the arbitrators that it desires to be reflected in an award. In cases where the award sought is anything more than payment of a specific amount it is wise to submit such language.”

Luby’s Restaurants LP bought over $30 million in auction-rate securities from Credit Suisse. The investor bought the ARS based on the financial firm’s representation that the instruments were very liquid, safe, and a suitable investment.

Luby’s later filed its arbitration claim with FINRA for ARS losses. By then it had gotten back everything but $8.9 million in securities. Then, after initiating the proceedings-but prior to the arbitration hearing-Luby’s redeemed another one of its securities for less than par and lost $186,000.

The arbitration panel would go on to rule in favor of Luby’s. Credit Suisse was directed to buy back the ARS from Luby’s at par and with interest. While both parties sought to confirm the award, they were in dispute over whether the $186,000 that Luby’s lost after it filed its arbitration case should be included.

The court says that Credit Suisse does not have to pay that amount to Luby’s. The court noted that the Award doesn’t mention the additional damages that Luby’s sustained when it sold some of the securities under par during pendency of the arbitration but prior to the hearing.

Related Web Resources:
$186K Under Arbitration Award, BNA Securities Law Daily, May 31, 2011
Luby’s Restaurants LP v. Credit Suisse Securities (USA) LLC, Justia

More Blog Posts:
Credit Suisse Group AG Must Pay ST Microelectronics NV $431 Million Auction-Rate Securities Arbitration Award, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, April 5, 2010
Texas Securities Commissioner’s Emergency Cease and Decease Order Accuses Insignia Energy Group Inc. of Misleading Teachers, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, May 23, 2011
Goldman Sachs and Wells Fargo Investments Repurchase $26.9M in Auction-Rate Securities from New Jersey Investors, Institutional Investors Securities Blog, May 25, 2011 Continue reading

U.S. District Judge Deborah Batts says that Credit Suisse Group AG must pay STMicroelectronics NV the rest of the $431 million arbitration award owed for unauthorized auction-rate securities-related investments. FINRA had issued the securities fraud award last year.

STMicroelectronics NV says that Credit Suisse invested in high risk securities, including ARS with collateralized debt obligations, for the company when the investment bank was only supposed to invest in student loans backed by the US government. The European-based semiconductor maker sued Credit Suisse when the ARS’ value dropped. STMicro accused the broker-dealer of securities fraud, unjust enrichment, breach of contract, failure to supervise, and breach of fiduciary duty.

A FINRA panel ruled in favor of STMicro, awarding the company $400 million in compensatory damages, $3 million in expert witness and legal fees, and $1.5 million in financing fees, while directing Credit Suisse to pay 4.64% on the illiquid ARS in STMicro’s account until the fees and damages were paid.

Credit Suisse sought to vacate the FINRA award and argued that a panel arbitrator had been prejudicial toward the investment bank. The broker-dealer also accused the panel of disregarding the law. The court, however, decided that Credit Suisse’s claims were meritless. The remaining balance owed to STMicroelectronics is approximately $354 million, including $23 million in interest.

Earlier this year, Credit Suisse broker Eric Butler received a 5-year prison sentence for selling subprime securities to investors. His fraudulent actions cost them over $1.1 billion.

Since the ARS market meltdown in February 2008, at least 19 broker-dealers and underwriters have been sued. Regulators forced some of them to repurchase billions of dollars worth of auction-rate securities.

Our Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas founder and Stockbroker fraud lawyer William Shepherd says, “One issue which investors face when they are required to arbitrate is that they have little hope of appealing the arbitrators’ award if he/she lose. However, this works both ways: It is also very difficult for the brokerage firm to appeal as well, and few even try. Thus, an investor can finish a case, win, and get paid in about a year. In court, the process can drag out for 5 years or more.”

Credit Suisse Ordered to Pay STMicroelectronics Award, BusinessWeek/Bloomberg, March 24, 2010
STMicroelectronics Sues Credit Suisse Over Securities, NY Times, August 7, 2008
FINRA Awards STMicroelectronics $406 Million Against Credit Suisse Securities (USA) LLC, STMicroelectronics, February 16, 2009 Continue reading

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